Meaningful Moments Matter When Asking Employees to Return to the Office

By Christi Anderson, VP CPA-LF Media Strategies

We’ve all gotten used to working from home over the past few years. We learned to navigate the weirdness of Zoom calls, leverage software to facilitate team collaboration, and adjusted to the struggle of the blurred lines between our work and personal lives. Now that many companies have opened back up, we’ve re-evaluated what our work week will look like moving forward.
 
From a company perspective, it’s no secret that relationships matter. However, we can’t just expect things to go back to the pre-pandemic status quo. To stay competitive and retain the magic of in-person interaction, we need to encourage our staff to want to be back in the office. We understand that expectations have changed, and in our new hybrid working world, we need to give employees a reason to come in.
 
Here are some ways we curate our spaces to create that in-person magic we all desire:
 
·       Feed me – Who doesn’t love free food? We’ve implemented monthly Taco Tuesday parties and curated snack stations at both of our offices. As humans, we bond over sharing a meal, and food is a great way to encourage your team to come back into the office. Seriously, it can make a world of difference to an office environment if you’re able to satiate the taste buds of your employees and create a social environment around the food that makes for serendipitous connections.
 
·       Change your scenery – Getting out of your cubicle or opening your office door encourages collaboration, creative thought, and mindfulness – you can stimulate the creativity and camaraderie that makes in-person work special. Offering a variety of collaborative spaces is another great way to encourage different ways of working together. Changing the layout and feel of your work footprint can make a big difference because it gives employees a change from what they experience alone in their home office.
 
·       Play – Work shouldn’t feel like a chore, and you avoid that by proactively creating opportunities for fun. Whether this is team lunches, happy hour drinks, or friendly competitions with prizes – you can drastically change the environment of your office by adding some fun to the mix.
  
·       Bring in speakers and special guests – Creating a space for continual learning gives you a value proposition that is difficult to say no to. To break up the in-office monotony, we believe in injecting fresh ideas and perspectives into the company through special guests. Choose speakers who can inspire your people while also teaching them something valuable – you’ll get better buy-in for your return-to-office plan.
 
·       Create pet-friendly spaces – We’ve seen this dramatically impact our company morale and the overall working atmosphere at both of our offices. Creating a pet-friendly space that allows team members to bring their furry friends helps with stress relief and is a natural ice breaker between teammates. Did we mention the joy it brings? Trust us, you want to try this one.
 
These are just 5 ideas we believe in that can help transform your in-person office experience into something that people want to come back to – as opposed to feeling forced to come back to. It’s not an exhaustive list, of course, but hopefully, it provides some inspiration for the sorts of meaningful moments that you create for your staff members.
 
It’s worth noting, though, that there are some challenges that come along with such changes. There is still a lot of work to be done, so you want to be careful about going too far with the play or not allowing enough personal space for that deep work. In addition, the communication needs to be carefully considered if you have team members who aren’t joining in person – so that they don’t feel like they are being left out.
 
Lastly, even if you have the best work environment possible, you may still face resistance to coming back to the office. Demonstrate patience, understanding, and overcommunication to help employees with the shift – so that you can ease the transition as much as possible.
 
Do this, and you’ll find that your office becomes the hub of your organization once more – bringing your people together and forming the foundation for the next stage of your business journey.

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